What Is a Flash Flood?
Flash floods are sudden, local floods that are usually caused by heavy rainfall. They can occur within minutes or a few hours after the rain starts falling. A burst dam or levee, or a released ice jam, can also create this type of flooding.
Where Do Flash Floods Occur?
Floods can occur anywhere and anytime, even in places you may not expect them. In many instances, the ground just can’t absorb the volume of rain that is pouring down. Streams, rivers and dry creeks can also swell and become prime spots for flash floods.
How Do I Know if There Is a Flash Flood in My Area?
Turn on a local radio or television station to listen for flash flood watches or warnings. You can also download a weather app on your phone, many of which send notifications if flash flooding is anticipated. If you live in an affected area, it’s best to stay home until you know it’s safe.
What Should I Do if I Come Across a Flooded Section of Road?
If you approach any kind of flooding, including large puddles of groundwater, your safest action is to turn around and find another route.
What may not seem like a lot of water can in fact be quite dangerous when you’re behind the wheel. It can be hard to gauge how deep the water is, and you can’t see what dangers may be below the water, such as debris or other hazards.
When it comes to fast-moving, rushing flood water:
- 6 inches of water can stall a vehicle or knock over an adult.
- 1 foot of water can sweep away a small car.
- 18 to 24 inches of water can carry off a truck, van or SUV.
This should go without saying, but never drive around a barricade or a “road closed” sign.
What Should I Do if My Vehicle Is Swept Away by a Flash Flood?
If you’re ever driving on a flooded road and your car stalls, abandon it immediately and move to higher ground. To escape a flash flood, follow these instructions from the American Safety Council:
- Stay calm and stay off your phone. Take a deep breath, don’t panic and immediately start taking action to get yourself—and your passengers—out of your vehicle swiftly and safely. Right now, 911 can wait.
- Unbuckle your seat belt. If you have a child riding with you, tell them to do the same. You may need to help younger children.
- Roll down your windows and swim out. The pressure of the water against your vehicle will make it extremely difficult to open your door. If you can’t open your window, break it open by using a sharp object such as an umbrella, a rock, a screwdriver or the heel of your shoe to hit the center of your window. Kicking open the window is another option, but it’s extremely hard to do. Aim for the upper right corner of a side or door window – that’s often a window’s weakest point.
- Swim with the flow of water. Don’t hang onto your vehicle. Instead, travel with the water until you can climb onto higher ground and get help. Once you are out of the water, stay out. Keep an eye out and steer clear of any downed power lines, which are extremely dangerous.
- Wait for your vehicle to sink. This should only be done if you’re trapped in your vehicle and have no other options. It should be your last resort. Your doors won’t open until the pressure outside your vehicle matches the pressure inside your car. So, unlock your doors and take slow, deep breaths. Once water has filled the vehicle, take one final deep breath, open your door and swim out, bringing along any passengers in your car. Once everyone is out, kick off your vehicle for an extra push to rise to the surface.
What Should I Do if I Come Into Contact With Flood Water?
After you’ve reached safety, clean any area that came into contact with flood water as soon as you can. Ideally you should scrub up with soap and clean water. Hand sanitizer or alcohol-based wipes can also work in a pinch. (Learn what else to include in your car emergency kit.)
A host of contaminants can lurk beneath the surface of the water, including human or animal waste, animals like rats and snakes, and household and industrial waste. These can cause skin rashes, infections and other illnesses. If you have any cuts or injuries, make sure you clean them thoroughly and get medical help if you need it.
What Kind of Damage Can Driving Through a Flood Do to My Vehicle?
If you make it out of a flood without significant damage to your vehicle (or even totaling it entirely), consider yourself lucky.
Water can damage or destroy your vehicle’s engine, transmission and other critical components to the point where you can’t operate it anymore. It can also cause irreversible damage to your car’s complex electrical system. Because of this long-lasting damage, flooded vehicles are often considered a total loss by insurance providers.
Beware that there are some dishonest auto dealers who will purchase vehicles (new and used) from flooded areas, clean them up and try to resell them with the flood damage illegally hidden. So, when you shop for a new or used vehicle, be on the lookout for this shady practice. Also, take a few minutes to read about how to know if a vehicle has flood damage.
Will My Insurance Policy Cover the Cost of Flood Damage to My Vehicle?
Comprehensive coverage, which is optional, can typically cover flood damage. Without it, you’ll most likely have to cover the cost of a new vehicle yourself. Learn more about comprehensive insurance and what else it can cover.
Find a Friend for When Trouble Hits
Whether it’s a stalled truck on a flooded highway or a fender bender in town, when you run into a problem with your vehicle, it’s easy to feel stranded.
At ERIE, we’re with you, so you can rely on our undivided attention when you need it. We’re here to understand when things go wrong, to assess the impact and help get things back to normal right away. Experience the ERIE difference for yourself: Read more about auto insurance or talk to your local ERIE agent.
Imagine that you’re driving down the road, minding your own business, when out of nowhere a torrential storm hits. Rain pounds relentlessly on your windshield, making it nearly impossible to see. Several of your fellow drivers slow down or turn on their hazards while others pull over to wait it out.
As you try to navigate, there’s another — sometimes forgotten — hazard to look out for: flash flooding.
Every season is flash flood season. But are you prepared? Here, we break down the basics of what you should know about this dangerous phenomenon and how you — and your vehicle — can stay safe while riding out the storm.
Posted on 21 July 2021 | 9:00 pm
- Use a checklist. We all hate the feeling of forgetting to pack something. To avoid leaving any essentials at home, create a list a few weeks before you leave — and add to it as you think of new items. Then, pull out the list as you start packing and check off items as you go.
- Make extra space. Avoid the temptation to fill your vehicle up to the roof. This obstructs the view from your rearview mirror and severely limits your visibility. Instead, consider a rooftop cargo box or hitch-mounted cargo carrier to create extra storage space.
- Keep pets safe. Is the family dog headed to the beach with you? Use a pet carrier or harness device to keep him safe for the ride. If your pet is hurt in a covered accident while riding in your car, ERIE will help cover the vet treatment costs by reimbursing you up to $500 per pet (up to two pets) for a maximum reimbursement limit of $1,000).But why ruin a getaway with trips to the vet? It’s better to learn how you can keep pets safe in the car right off the bat. Oh, and don’t forget to pack a portable water bowl and some extra food for rest stops.
Know your route
- Use your GPS. Before you leave home, enter all of your destinations into your vehicle’s GPS system or a mobile navigation app. This will give you real-time updates on travel time and save you from searching for addresses at the last minute.
- Plan for traffic. Construction delays can strike anytime, anywhere in the summer. And driving through a major city during rush hour could add hours to your itinerary. Know where congestion is possible and plan to travel during off-peak hours. Mobile navigation apps like Google Maps or Waze can also help by predicting traffic time and suggesting alternate routes if you get stuck.
- Bring an atlas. Even though you haven’t used one in ages, keeping a road atlas in the car is always a good idea. With an old-school paper map, you don’t have to worry about losing your GPS signal or running out of battery. And if you have kids, they may get a kick out of tracking your travels.
- Skip the toll booth. If you’ll be traveling on the turnpike, consider ordering an electronic transponder like E-ZPass. Using an electronic toll system allows you to skip the cash lines and pay lower fares. Already have a toll pass? Make sure your credit card information is up-to-date so you can reload your device when it runs low.
Prepare your vehicle
- Schedule a multi-point inspection. This type of inspection, usually done at a dealership or independent auto shop, is a great way to get a snapshot of your vehicle’s overall condition. A trained mechanic can let you know of any maintenance issues to fix before they get worse (or more expensive).
- Check your tires. Before you leave home, inspect the condition of your tires and inflate them to the pressure recommended by your vehicle’s manufacturer. If your tires are low on tread, replace them before you hit the road. You can check by using “the penny test.” Just insert a penny upside down into a tread groove. If you can see the top of Lincoln’s head, it’s time for new tires.
- Change your oil. Road trips can rack up the miles on your car in the span of just a few days. Look ahead to preventative maintenance, like oil changes, that may come due while you’re traveling. Taking care of it before you leave is not only good for your car — it’s good for peace-of-mind, too.
- Top off fluids. Don’t wait until your windshield is covered with bugs to find out your washer fluid is empty. Before your road trip, check all of your vehicle’s fluid levels. That includes windshield washer fluid, antifreeze, brake fluid, oil and power steering fluid. Top them all off as needed.
Be Ready for Anything
- Do your research. Sometimes, a little knowledge can go a long way toward getting you out of an unexpected situation. Do you know how to jump-start a dead battery? Or what to do if your car overheats? Study up in advance. But ask your agent about ERIE’s Emergency Roadside Service and save the number in your phone — 800-FOR-ERIE — just in case.
- Check your emergency kit. If you find yourself stranded, a well-stocked emergency kit could help you get back on the road quickly and safely. Pre-assembled kits are available to purchase, or you can use this guide to assemble your own emergency kit.
- Organize your glovebox. If you happen to get in an accident, it’s nice to have the documents you need at your fingertips. Make sure you have a copy of your vehicle registration and an up-to-date insurance ID card.
Take a break
- Make regular stops. While eliminating stops can help you get to your destination sooner, it’s not the most enjoyable way to travel. Stopping to take a short break every few hours will give everyone a chance to stretch their legs, and can help you stay more alert behind the wheel.
- Pack healthy snacks. Chips, chocolate and soda. Every kid’s dream meal. To avoid the sugar highs after every rest stop and gas fill-up, pack a small cooler filled with bottled water, cereal bars, fruits and vegetables. Avoid salty foods or sugary drinks that may actually make you thirsty, or heavy foods that can make you tired.
- Find ways to pass the time. “How much longer?” “Are we there yet?” “I’m bored!" If you’re traveling with children, check out these four brilliant ways to keep kids occupied on road trips.
Protect what matters most
When it comes to packing for your road trip, we know the people you travel with are your most important cargo. That’s why we’re here — to help you make sure they’re protected.
Not all coverages and benefits are offered in or apply to all states. Terms, conditions, limitations and exclusions apply; talk to an ERIE agent or see the policy for details.
If you’re planning a trip this summer, a little advanced planning can go a long way toward making your vacation safe and fun for everyone. (Having the right auto insurance can help you stress less, too.) Here are some tips to help keep you organized — and prepared for whatever may come your way.
Posted on 8 July 2021 | 9:00 pm
Gearing up for the Fourth of July holiday likely means family picnics, being outside and enjoying a fireworks display. But have you ever wondered how long can you let food sit out before it starts to go bad? Or when your next-door neighbor surprises the kiddos with sparklers and firecrackers, how do you make sure everyone stays safe?
You’ve got questions – we’ve got you covered. We’ve rounded up our best Independence Day tips and information in preparation for the upcoming holiday weekend.
Fireworks and Sparklers
Fireworks and sparklers are a beloved tradition at the Fourth of July – but it’s important to remember they pose a serious risk of burns, injuries or house and structure fires.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that sparklers can burn at 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit—that’s as hot as a blow torch! Sparklers, which cause 9% of all fireworks burns and other injuries, are especially likely to injure children.
Of course, no one wants an accident to fizzle their Fourth of July fun. The National Safety Council says the safest way to celebrate is to forego fireworks and leave the pyrotechnics to the pros. Glow sticks, silly string and noise makers are safe and festive alternatives.
If you choose to use fireworks at your celebration, consider the following tips to celebrate safely:
- Follow your federal and local laws. Avoid the temptation to cross state lines to get “the big stuff.” Make sure your firework purchase is legal and safe by brushing up on your federal fireworks laws and local fireworks laws.
- Dress appropriately. To avoid burns and other injuries, wear eye and ear protection, close toed shoes and avoid loose clothing.
- Use one firework at a time. Light each firework individually to keep things under control.
- Create a safe environment. By now, you are an experienced social distancer. Channel that skill and stand clear of other people when lighting fireworks. That also goes for nearby buildings, vehicles and flammable objects.
- Dispose of fireworks properly. Sparkler sticks and fireworks can retain heat even after they burn out. Soak all used and unused fireworks in water and then throw them away in a metal trashcan. This will prevent the fireworks from burning other garbage.
- Keep water close. Summon your inner firefighter and keep a source of water handy in case of an emergency.
- Never relight fireworks. Don’t be a “dud” – dispose of dud fireworks in a bucket of water. Attempting to reignite them can create a dangerous situation.
Read our related blog story on sparkler safety tips for more safety precautions.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports that an average of 8,900 home fires are started by grills each year. These numbers peak during the month of July. Take the following precautions to keep you and your guests safe.
- Clean your grill. If it’s been a while since your grill got some TLC, be sure to go through the trays and gates with a steel brush and wipe them clean with a wet towel. This will prevent any buildup from catching fire when you start cooking.
- Give your grill space. The NFPA advises that grills be placed at least 10 feet away from other structures. This includes surfaces like porches, garages or breezeways.
- Stay close. You want to be a good host, but leaving the grill unattended to chat with your guests can be a fire risk. So make grilling a social activity — grab a friend or two and take turns flipping burgers and cracking jokes.
- Set clear rules. It is important that everyone, especially the kids, understand the safety rules that you feel are necessary. You don’t want any wandering fingers or flying beach balls landing too close to the grill.
For more guidance on grill-side safety, read our related article on grilling safety tips.
Foodborne illness is no joke, so we’ve gathered key tips to keep food the star of your party, not the enemy.
- Use a food thermometer. It’s tempting to say you know when the food is done just by looking at it, but even grill masters need help making this important call. According to the USDA, using a food thermometer is the only way to know your food is safe to eat. Read about minimum safe internal temperatures before starting up the grill.
- Do not cross contaminate. Keep raw meat and everything that touches it away from other foods. Watch out for common food safety mistakes, like thawing food on the counter or mixing grilling utensils with cooked foods.
Looking After You
At Erie Insurance, we value your safety this Independence Day and every day. That’s why we go out of our way to help you protect the things that matter most. Talk to your local ERIE agent today to find the right homeowners insurance coverage for you and your family.
Posted on 27 June 2021 | 9:00 pm
Should I hire an employee or contractor?
If you need help building your business, there are two ways to hire an extra set of hands – adding an employee or signing an independent contractor. While there are pros and cons to both, it’s important to understand the difference.
- Employee: An employee is hired to work for your company on a full- or part-time basis. This means you, as the employer, have control over how, when and where they do their job. And you’ll also have ownership of any work product that’s created on company time. However, this control comes with added responsibility. When you hire an employee, you’ll need to withhold payroll taxes and report their income using the appropriate tax form, in addition to abiding by other federal, state, and local employment laws. Then, there are additional benefit considerations – like offering vacation, sick time, a retirement plan and health insurance. These are just some of the basic responsibilities that are tied to having employees.
- Independent contractor: A contractor (or freelancer) is a self-employed worker that is hired for a specific task. According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), that means the payer only has the right to direct the result of the work – not how, when or where it’s accomplished. Contractors can also perform work for multiple clients at the same time. When hiring a contractor, you still need to report their income using the appropriate tax form. But because they’re responsible for their own taxes and benefits, you generally don’t need to withhold any payroll taxes.
Contractors can be a great option for short-term, project-based jobs. They can bring a specific skill to the table, without the long-term commitment of hiring an employee.
On the other hand, an employee will give you far more control over the work being performed – and the nature of the arrangement means they’re also likely to be more committed to your business. In the long run, this may make hiring an employee worth the extra time and financial investment, depending on the work that needs to be done.
When is the right time to hire an employee?
Every business is unique. So unfortunately, there’s no right answer to when it’s the best time to hire an employee. Instead, you’ll need to find the right balance for your situation.
- Too early: The biggest challenge to hiring your first employee is typically a financial one. Hire someone too early and you’ll run the risk of encountering cash-flow problems. Or if you don’t have enough work to support another team member, you could be paying someone who doesn’t have enough to keep them busy.
- Too late: However, if you start hiring too late, you may miss out on opportunities to grow your business. Or you could get in over your head and risk disappointing your current customer base.
Either scenario is less than ideal. That’s why it’s important to plan ahead.
Decide in advance when it’s a good time to bring on an employee – like when you hit a certain sales goal, or at a time when an employee can perform work that will significantly increase your revenue. If you need help before hitting that milestone, you can always hire a contractor to test the waters.
What changes do I need to make to my business before hiring an employee?
One big obstacle to hiring your first employee can be the logistics. The truth is, hiring an employee means you’ll have a lot more legal rules to follow1. If you have specific questions about your business, always talk to an experienced lawyer for legal advice.
Generally speaking, though: Before you make your first job offer, you may need to:
- File for a federal employer identification number (EIN). If you don’t have one already, this number will be used for tax documents that are submitted to the IRS.
- Register with the state. Depending on where you live, you may need a separate tax ID number for your state. You may also need to pay your state’s unemployment compensation tax, which is used to support workers if they lose their job.
- Set up your payroll. Whether you decide to manage payroll on your own or work with an outside firm, you’ll need to set up regular pay periods. Generally, employers withhold state and federal taxes based on the information completed in your employee’s W-4 form.
- Display required notices. You may be a small business. But as an employer, you’re now subject to many federal, state, and local labor laws. And depending on your industry, that may require displaying certain notices or posters for your employees to see. The Department of Labor’s FirstStep Poster Advisor tool can help you decide what rules apply to your business.
- Create an employee handbook. This step may seem like overkill for your first employee. But if you don’t have any policies in place for your staff to follow, you may be left defenseless against future bad behavior. Search for trusted resources online, such as this guide to developing your employee handbook from the Society for Human Resource Management, to help you build your own rules.
- Prepare your onboarding process. Before making your first hire, it’s wise to think through how you’ll train your employees. Developing an onboarding process in advance can help your new hire get up to speed faster and eliminate any frustrations caused by a lack of direction.
How do I find the right candidate for the job?
Your first hire will likely have a significant impact on the future of your business – good or bad. That’s why it’s critical to find the right person to fill the job. With reports of record labor shortages in the news, many businesses are finding it harder than ever to hire qualified workers. Here are some tips that may help.
- Understand hiring laws. When hiring, keep in mind that there are questions that you can’t (or shouldn’t) ask. To avoid being discriminatory in your hiring decision, steer clear of asking about topics such as a candidate's age, religion, disability, marital status, race, or any other protected characteristic. The experts at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) have this helpful guide to understanding employment laws and avoiding discrimination in hiring decisions. The rules can be complicated, and they vary by situation. If you have specific questions, it’s best to consult a lawyer for legal advice tailored to your business or situation.
- Write a compelling job description. When writing a job description, make sure it clearly describes the work that will be performed, as well as any qualifications you expect from applicants. Be practical. Have realistic expectations. And don’t forget to explain why it will be great working for your growing company – including any perks of the job. Then, post your listing to online job sites like Indeed, Monster.com and LinkedIn.
- Consider a benefits package. With so many job opportunities available right now, an offer with competitive pay and benefits can help attract top talent. Do your research in advance to determine what the average compensation is for similar roles in your area.
- Use your network. For businesses with fewer than 100 employees, it’s estimated that about half of all new hires are generated by referrals. So be sure to use your personal network to your advantage. Let your friends, family and professional contacts know you’re hiring and ask if they know anyone that would be a good fit. And don’t ignore the power of social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
- Prepare for the interview. Once you’ve narrowed down the field of candidates, it’s time to conduct interviews. Be sure to prepare your questions ahead of time and make a list of the attributes you’re looking for. This will make it easier to compare applicants. Experts also recommend asking situational questions to gauge how someone may respond to real-life scenarios.
What should I do during the hiring process?
After you’ve found the perfect candidate, it’s time to make an offer and set a start date. But of course, it’s not quite that easy. Here are some steps you should take to protect your business and ensure a smooth hiring process.
- Fact-check their resume. A resume is a great starting point to learn about someone’s background and experience, but it won’t tell you everything. Consider following up with previous employers or alma maters to make sure a candidate’s skills and experience check out. Be aware that many employers have a standard practice of not providing details on a former employee; only dates of employment and/or whether or not the individual would be considered “eligible for rehire.”
- Conduct a pre-employment screening. Your first employee may have access to everything from important files to financial records. So you’ll want to make sure they can be trusted. Consider paying for a background check and drug screen to check for any signs of past criminal conduct or substance abuse. Be aware of all federal, state, and local laws that might impact background checks (including credit checks) and drug testing. Consider doing background checks and/or drug testing after a conditional offer is made.
- Write an offer letter. Next, write up the details of your job offer and submit it to your soon-to-be employee. This should include information on the position, salary and any benefits you’re offering. The offer will serve as the foundation from which any negotiations start. The offer letter is an important document. It’s a good idea to discuss it with or have it reviewed by legal counsel in advance. As mentioned above, consider having a first conditional offer letter, pending successful background checks and/or drug testing. Then follow up with a final offer letter, once the background check and/or drug testing have been successfully completed.
- Be prepared to negotiate. Applicants are likely to try and negotiate for higher pay or benefits. Be prepared in advance for any compromises you’re willing to make. And if you can’t budge on salary, consider offering other incentives like vacation time or training opportunities.
- Complete your paperwork. Congratulations! Your offer has been accepted and your new employee is ready to start. Now it’s time to get working on all the forms required by the U.S. Department of Labor. Be sure to keep copies of everything for your own records.
How can I protect my growing business?
You may have started as a one-person show. But now that your business is expanding, you’ll need to make sure it’s protected.
An insurance pro like your local ERIE agent can help you understand what coverage to consider when you hire new employees. Generally speaking, here are a few things to have on your radar:
- Business Insurance: Business insurance can help protect against everything from property damage to liability claims from customers and employees. At Erie Insurance, we offer business insurance packages that are tailored to your specific industry.
- Workers’ Compensation: Workers' compensation laws and requirements vary by state. But generally, any business that has employees must have workers’ compensation insurance coverage. It helps cover medical care and lost wages for an employee who is hurt at work.
- Employment Practices Liability (EPL): Unfortunately, no employer is immune from a current or former employee, or even an employment candidate, filing a claim of alleged discrimination, wrongful termination or harassment of any kind. If a claim against your business is made, you could spend valuable time and resources defending it – even if the claim is determined to be meritless. ERIE’s EPL coverage2 helps cover liability damages and defense costs (within the limit of coverage) from charges brought by employees as well as applicants for employment or volunteers.
To learn more about these insurance coverages, get in touch with a local ERIE agent today.
You built it. Let us help protect it.
They say “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” And neither was your business. At ERIE, we appreciate all the hard work that goes into starting and running a small business. It’s why we’ve dedicated our lives to helping you protect it.
To learn more about how we can help provide tailor-made insurance solutions for your situation and your budget, contact your local ERIE agent.
1 The information contained herein is provided for informational purposes only, and in no way should be considered legal advice. Consult an experienced attorney with legal questions regarding hiring employees and/or contractors.
2 Coverages, benefits, limits and deductibles will vary. Conditions, exclusions and limitations will apply. Refer to our disclaimer for more information. Talk to an ERIE agent for state specific policy information.
You’ve put in the hard work building your business from the ground up. And it’s finally starting to pay off. The only problem: now you have more work than you can handle.
As a small business owner, growth is always a good problem to have. But it does come with its own share of challenges. If you’ve made it to this point, you have two options. The first is to let opportunities for new business pass you by, ensuring you don’t take on more than you can handle. The second option is to lighten your load – by hiring someone to help.
For many business owners, the decision to hire their first employee can be a difficult one. So here are answers to some of the most common questions about hiring your first employee.
Posted on 12 June 2021 | 9:00 pm
Are you an entrepreneur or aspiring to be one? Selling and servicing insurance is a rewarding career opportunity that allows you to be an entrepreneur. As an insurance agent, you will build and manage your own business, have the potential to earn a good living and help people make informed decisions about their personal or business insurance program. Does this sound like a career for you?
Insurance is an important part of people’s lives. It helps protect families and businesses by reducing financial uncertainty from unexpected events like car accidents or death and unforeseen disasters like fire, weather events or theft. It takes tenacity, training and lots of hard work, but at the end of each day, you’ll know that you’ve helped someone, sometimes profoundly.
Even in the digital age with the convenience of online shopping, a lot of people prefer to do business in person or over the phone when purchasing insurance. Insurance shoppers understand that coverage can be complicated, so they rely on a professional insurance agent to be sure they have the protection they need.
Whether you have experience or are new to the field, you may be wondering what the job entails and if it’s the right long-term career move for you. Here are five common questions (with detailed answers) that applicants often ask the sales team at Erie Insurance. You will learn about job duties, skills, earning potential, licensing and more.
What do insurance agents do?
As a licensed agent, you are contracted with an insurance company to sell a variety of products, including auto, home, life, business and long-term care insurance, to match the needs of your customers. Some insurers use exclusive or captive agents who represent a single company. Others, like Erie Insurance, use independent agents, who may represent one or multiple insurance companies.
Acting as a liaison between the insurance company and the customer, you work with each of your clients to understand their needs, evaluate their potential risks and their budget to put together an insurance plan. You prepare quotes, explain coverage details and complete the policy application process for your customers. You need to be familiar with different types of insurance policies, forms and coverages.
The relationships that you develop with people in your community are the foundation of your business. Your professional reputation in your local community makes you a natural first point of contact for your customers when they need to file a claim or update their coverage because of a life event like buying a new home or having a child. You need to proactively develop a network of clients through numerous channels—referrals, cold calling, email, social media, advertising, mailings, business events and community activities.
As the owner of the insurance agency, you’ll also have a variety of other responsibilities, such as:
- Maintaining an office, bookkeeping systems, databases and records.
- Ensuring all paperwork for the insurance policies is completed and appropriately filed.
- Attending meetings, seminars and continuing education classes to learn about products and services.
- Developing detailed business and marketing plans to grow the agency and meet sales goals.
You’ll spend a large portion of your time immersed in all of these activities to develop your business.
What skills do I need to become a successful agent?
For starters, you’ll need to excel at sales, marketing and management to operate a thriving insurance agency, especially at the startup level. Here are some other qualities that are common among successful agents:
- Strong interpersonal skills: You have a knack for nurturing and creating long-lasting business relationships. You have excellent communication skills.
- Credibility: You’re knowledgeable and know how to present information effectively to influence others. You’re always looking for ways to help your customers and grow your business. You have personal or career experience focused on service.
- A great work ethic: You’re enthusiastic about insurance and are willing to learn the necessary skills. You are not deterred if you don’t close a sale from time to time, and you are committed to self-development.
- Confidence: Your customers can tell that you believe in what you’re selling. You have an ability to set and achieve business goals that are ambitious but achievable.
What are the benefits of working in the insurance industry?
In addition to helping people, you get to work in a stable and growing industry. Insurance is one of those industries that is considered recession-proof, because people will need insurance as long as risks exist. Insurance is also considered a lifeline of the economy because it helps people and businesses carefully manage risk to generate growth and strengthen investments.
What’s even more exciting is the future employment outlook for insurance agents. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of insurance sales agents is projected to grow 5 percent from 2019 to 2029—faster than the average for all occupations.
Do insurance agents make a good salary?
If you’re willing to work hard and sell personal, commercial and life insurance, you have the potential to earn a six-figure income. An agency earns first year commissions on new business in the first year and renewal commissions on business that is renewed each year. There are also opportunities to generate additional revenue with production and profitability bonuses. Some insurance carriers, including Erie Insurance, often offer travel incentives to award top sales performers with all-expense-paid trips. ERIE also provides monthly and annual bonuses for production and profitability.
As your agency grows, your business will usually increase in value. It have the potential of helping you enhance your retirement planning goals, be passed on to family members or be sold to another agent.
How do I become licensed to sell insurance?
To become an agent, you need to hold a current property/casualty license and life/health license in your state. To prepare for the state licensing exam you need to take a three-day pre-licensing course or complete a self-study course for each license. A college degree is not required, but having a background in insurance, business or finance can be an asset. It’s also beneficial if you have sales experience.
Here are some of the steps that you’ll need to take:
- Pick a line of business. Agents are required to be licensed for specific lines of business. Knowing what type of coverage you want to sell can help you choose your insurance career path.
- Meet your state’s education requirement. In all states, you will need to complete pre-licensing requirements. For example, the Pennsylvania Insurance Department requires candidates to complete 24 hours of general pre-licensing education and three hours of instruction in ethics.
- Pass the state insurance exam. Test-takers generally spend 35 to 40 hours studying for the property and casualty exam, which is a timed, multiple-choice test. The number of questions on the exam will depend on the state and the license for which you are applying.
- Apply for a license. One way that you can submit your license application online is through the National Insurance Producer Registry (NIPR).
- Gain an insurance company appointment. After you are licensed, you’ll need to apply and secure an appointment with an insurance company.
For more information about the license requirements, you can find a directory listing of state insurance departments through the Insurance Information Institute website.
Become your own boss
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Becoming an Erie Insurance agent is a great opportunity to develop your own business while representing a Fortune 500® company that has been in business for since 1925. You’ll be backed by a highly engaged and experienced Home Office and branch team to help you succeed. Find out more about what it takes to become an ERIE agent.
Posted on 10 June 2021 | 9:00 pm